voodoo, vampires, and general butt naked

Across the world, billions of people believe in magic and witchcraft. Whether those beliefs are rational or not is beside the point: in politics, perception of reality is often at least as important as reality itself.

In this episode, you’ll hear from Professor Ronald Hutton, one of the world’s leading experts on witchcraft, to determine the origins of belief in magic and evil spells — and to figure out whether witches actually float. You’ll also hear from Anas Aremeyaw Anas, an undercover journalist from Ghana, who was nearly killed in Malawi when he was mistaken for being a vampire.

And, in one of the stories of history that is hard to believe — but is absolutely true — you’ll learn how the United States and Haiti almost ended up in a full-blown war when Haiti’s government started threatening to send an army of invisible zombies, backed up by the powers of voodoo, to defeat American soldiers who were threatening to invade. You’ll also learn how a honeymooning couple in Haiti, a couple that would go on to be one of the most powerful pairs in American politics, ended up meeting a voodoo priest that would change the course of American foreign policy.

Finally, you’ll also learn about General Butt Naked, a rebel commander in the unspeakably brutal civil war in Liberia & Sierra Leone, who led his troops into battle completely nude after claiming that they were all subject to magical protections that rendered them immune from bullet wounds.

Whether we realize it or not, belief in magic and witchcraft remains widespread. And that belief is influencing politics across the globe in important ways.